Curriculum

Testing Leaders, Publishers Offer ‘Best Practices’ Guide

The booklet marks a first-time collaboration for the groups
By Catherine Gewertz — August 02, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

The test-publishing industry and state assessment leaders have come together for the first time to define a set of best practices for large-scale state testing.

The result of the collaboration, released last week, is a new best-practices guide intended to serve as a road map to improving state assessment procedures. The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents commissioners of education, and the Association of Test Publishers, a nonprofit trade group, both based in Washington, coordinated its development.

Work on the guide began in 2006, after the onset of large-scale accountability testing, driven by the No Child Left Behind Act, called attention to states’ and test publishers’ needs for guidance in designing and implementing good assessment systems, said Gene Wilhoit, the CCSSO’s executive director.

“This guide is a byproduct of an industry in its infancy that mushroomed quickly,” he said. “That helped us see the need to have much better practice.”

It tackles areas that have been nettlesome for state assessment officials as well as test publishers, including procurement, item development, test security, scoring and reporing, testing special populations, and transitioning assessment work from one provider to another.

Articulation of best-practices in assessment is particularly timely, Mr. Wilhoit noted, in light of two federal Race to the Top competitions. States vying for the $4 billion in stimulus money offered in the main contest are proposing new approaches to testing, among other ideas to improve education, and several groups of states are seeking chunks of a separate pot that offers $350 million for new assessment systems.

Common Language

The guide offers state assessment officials and test publishers a common language and set of expectations that can improve their work, said William G. Harris, the chief executive officer of the test-publishers association.

“Quality [work on assessment systems] requires both states and test publishers to make sure they understand each other’s needs,” he said.

One area that emerged as needing definition and improvement is how states write requests for proposals when they seek bids on new testing systems, Mr. Wilhoit said. States too often write vague proposals, leaving test publishers to make sense of what they want, he said, and that can spark problems down the line when the proposals—or the tests themselves—don’t reflect the states’ needs. The guide offers suggestions for organizing and training state staff in that area.

Navigating transitions can also prove bumpy for states and test-makers, Mr. Wilhoit said. Wrapping up a contract with one provider and moving smoothly into work with another can often produce awkward gaps that need to be addressed. And frequent personnel changes in state assessment departments have shown the need for consistent training to keep the testing processes running smoothly as new employees come aboard, he said.

States are also under increasing pressure to ensure that test items properly reflect their academic standards, according to Mr. Wilhoit. But they often rely too much on test publishers for that alignment, risking gaps that undermine the validity of the tests as good gauges of standards mastery, he said.

One area that was not tackled deeply in the guide was the role that technology plays in assessment, Mr. Harris said. The two groups plan to delve further into that area in the next version. A work group will convene to begin revision in 2011. The groups are seeking feedback on the guide, and that input will shape the next version, they said.

The best-practices guide is available for purchase on Amazon.com and on the publishers association and CCSSO websites.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the August 11, 2010 edition of Education Week as Testing Leaders, Publishers Offer ‘Best Practices’ Guide

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Opinion Media Coverage of Critical Race Theory Misses the Mark
News accounts of critical race theory focus on topics that are not particularly controversial, while neglecting those that are.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum A 'War on Books': Conservatives Push for Audits of School Libraries
After Texas banned critical race theory in schools, battles grew heated in the conservative suburbs surrounding the state's largest cities.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
12 min read
Image of books.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Texas Lawmaker Demands Districts Provide Lists of Books on Racism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ
The Texas attorney general candidate's request has received criticism from educator groups who say the inquiry is politically motivated.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Teachers' Use of Standards-Aligned Curricula Slowed During the Pandemic
More math teachers are using standards-aligned materials than English/language arts teachers, according to RAND survey results.
4 min read
Illustration of a grading rubric.
priyanka gupta/iStock/Getty